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By Laura Smith

Keeping Your Gold in the Golden Years

Corrales is the safest city in New Mexico. Sometimes I send the Corrales Police Crime and Safety Report to my out of state friends, especially when it involves missing yard art or anything to do with chickens. Those that live in cities across the country are often amused (and a bit jealous) when they read our police blotter. The remarkable safety of our village is a tribute to our public safety officers as well as the watchful eyes of our close-knit community members.

However, one crime that regularly appears in the Crime and Safety Report, is surging in Corrales (and everywhere else). The criminals are multinational, and the victims are just about everyone.

The crime is fraudulent scamming. The crimes often occur online or on the phone and involve being persuaded to give up personal information, money, or identity to savvy criminals.

Who gets scammed? All age groups can be victims of fraud, but older folks tend to be slightly more vulnerable. I know of several Village in the Village (ViV) members who have been scammed. And the Corrales police blotter is full of examples of other members of our community that have lost money, time, and more importantly, a sense of security after being victimized.

Although the number of possible scams is as infinite as the imagination of the scammer, here are some of the most prevalent:

  • Clicking on links that allow criminals to access information stored on your computer, infect your computer with viruses, or lead to ransom demands.
  • Online purchases from fake websites —often promising bargain prices.
  • Buying counterfeit products (think masks).
  • Identity theft.
  • Lottery, sweepstakes, and vacation scams.
  • Telephone scams leading to loss of identity and or money.

How do scammers get you to part with your money or identity? You might think that people with good common sense would be immune. But a recent, large research study conducted by the University of Chicago along with AARP found that lack of education is only a small contributor to being vulnerable to con artists. So, what leads to increased risk? You might be surprised.

  • Recent major loss or stressors in the victim’s life.
  • Loneliness and lack of social support.
  • Emotional fragility.
  • Tendency to easily feel strong emotions whether positive or negative.
  • Being frequently targeted by scammers.

How do you protect yourself from fraud? Con artists know that the best way to score a hit is to play on the emotional response of their victims. Strong emotions cause people to act without thinking. One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to stop and slow down. Do not react quickly or respond to urgent messages or requests to do something.

Additional steps you can take include:

  • Even though it seems like a hassle, require two-factor authentication on any financial transactions.
  • Many phone companies have robocall blocking. Add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Gift cards are never asked for by legitimate businesses, charities, or government agencies. Asking for gift card as a payment method is a likely scam.
  • Unless you recognize the number, let voicemail answer your phone. Scammers can use common prefixes as well as names of organizations.
  • Never click on any links (text or email) that you don’t know are coming and what they are about. That includes communication that seems to be coming from a trusted source.
  • Make sure you have good anti-virus protection on your computer.
  • Sigh, change your passwords and use a sophisticated password. Believe it or not, too many people are still using PASSWORD and 12345 to protect their private information.

Beware of criminals lurking in cyberspace. Before deciding, stop, think, and don’t let your emotions dictate your decision. Reach out to friends or family if you have any doubts. Even the most sophisticated consumers make bad decisions when their emotions supersede their logic.

Laura Smith is a member of Village in the Village. For more information about this non-profit organization, see VillageintheVillage.org

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